The Hill, June 6, 2012 by Debbie Siegelbaum
House Republicans are continuing their efforts to restrict abortions in the District of Columbia, announcing plans to introduce a new anti-abortion-rights bill in Congress.
On May 31, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) wrote on his Facebook page that he plans to author the District of Columbia Respect for Life and Conscience Act of 2012.
According to the posting, the bill “requires minors in D.C. to receive their parents’ consent before having an abortion, prohibits non-doctors from performing abortions, and provides conscience protections for individuals and health care facilities in D.C. that refuse to perform abortions.”
Amash had previously co-sponsored several pieces of national legislation restricting the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, including the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and the Protect Life Act.
“The right to life is sacred and undeniable,” Amash wrote on his congressional website. “It is the proper role of government to protect life, and it is unconscionable for government to sanction the taking of helpless and innocent life.”
On Tuesday evening, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) decried Amash’s plans and ongoing efforts by the GOP to restrict abortions solely in the District.
“Rep. Amash is spending time in the House meddling in my district, instead of attending to the needs of his own constituents,” she wrote in a statement. “His bill would overturn our local laws with no accountability to our residents.”
Norton also accused House Republicans of being in “copycat mode,” referring to a similar bill Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) introduced in January. The District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act proposes prohibiting abortions past the 20-week gestation period solely in the District.
Describing the effort as “humanitarian and compassionate,” Franks told The Hill in January that the proposed legislation was necessary because abortion providers who give late-term abortions unable to practice elsewhere were coming to the District.
“Because of the extreme liberal local government in D.C., there is some indication … that D.C. either is becoming, or has the potential to become, a safe haven for abortionists to do these late-term abortions, who for other reasons have had their licenses revoked in the states and [have] come to the District as a safe haven,” he said.
Franks’s bill has already garnered 197 co-sponsors in the House, including Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).
But on Tuesday, Norton accused Franks, Amash and House Republicans of being “wholly unprincipled in their mockery both of democracy and of their principles by confining their bills to D.C., the one jurisdiction that they continue to disempower without a vote.”
“Above all, the anti-choice, D.C.-only bills reveal a lack of courage to put forward the same abortion bills for the entire country,” she added. “Neither Representative Amash or any other autocratic member of Congress will get a free pass when trying to bully the District with bills they dare not introduce for the nation.”
Norton was not alone in expressing frustration at GOP efforts to restrict abortion access in the District.
On Tuesday, more than 100 organizations — including the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP — wrote a letter to all members of Congress decrying a rider in the District’s fiscal year 2013 spending bill that would ban the use of locally raised tax dollars on reproductive services.
“Congress does not impose its views on any other local jurisdiction in the United States of America,” according to the letter. “We expect Congress to be consistent by letting Washingtonians manage their own affairs without interference or meddling.”